Friday, December 28, 2012

Little Bits of Joy

Yesterday evening, after the rain, I took a walk.  Upon passing a house a few blocks from mine, I came upon a little boy, peeking out from his front gate.  "Hi!" he said. "Where do you come from?"

Upon learning that I could talk, the boy immediately ran to call his sisters, who also came to the gate to see the marvel. A tall, talking white man from a far country.

"Where do you come from?" they asked. "Where do you live?  How long have you been here?  How old are you? What religion are you?"

On learning that I am a Christian, each stepped forward to shake my hand and wish me a Merry Christmas. It was the first time I had heard the greeting the whole season through.

We talked about the fruit on the nearby trees. This one was bitter. This one was sweet. This one was not eaten, but used for medicine.

We parted then, after sharing these basics of conversation.

"See you tomorrow," they said, all three. "See you tomorrow, mister."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays

Christmas in Bali. Or not. It's hard to tell.

The truth is, they don't really have Christmas here, given a population that is 95 percent Hindu, and the other part Muslim. They are aware of course, at shopping centers and supermarkets, that this is a big holiday for western folks, and so they make an attempt at setting up various Christmas displays -- trees and Santas and such-like. But it's just not the same.

So the season comes along with a bit of an empty, homesick feeling. One has a persistent vague feeling of missing something, of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But frankly, it's a bit like that in America now as well -- the holidays having been gutted of their original meaning by stress and money and commercialism and political correctness.

"What ever happened to Christmas," as the song goes. "It's gone and left no traces ..."

Except this this:

"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them,"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Merry Christmas, All.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Overnight in Ubud

I had a rare experience in luxury this weekend when I traveled to Ubud Green Resort to do an article for Bali Style Magazine. Green, of course, is the big catch word these days -- if it's green, it's good. Or anyway it couldn't hurt. In any case, we got our own private villa, with a second story unit for our friends, complete with swimming pool, AC in every room (good, given that the outside temperature was 42 C.), two big screen TVs, two King beds, free Balinese/Indonesian cuisine, and a general red carpet sort of treatment (in the hope that I would write a good review). Oh, and hot water. This may sound perfectly urbane to the reader, but the fact is I have no hot water at my house. Most people in my income bracket don't. What we have is a showerhead that doesn't work and a large receptacle of cold water, with which we drench outselves from a small plastic pail. And so yes, the hot water was good too. It was great. Yes, the weather is hot enough on its own, but there's just something about a nice warm shower or bath. Or jacuzzi. Two years since I've had a warm shower, folks. Imagine. I believe I took five showers during our two day stay. Oh, and one bath.

After Ubud we drove up to Bedugul, high in the central mountains, which provided one of the strangest experiences I've ever had -- a change in temperature within the space of two hours from 107 Fahrenheit to about 50 Fahrenheit. Quite jarring, that. A shock to the system. Aside from the temperature change, it was also raining -- cats and dogs. Torrents and floods of cats and dogs. And so we took shelter in a popular warung that serves only fish from the nearby lake, and we watched the rain, and listened to the cannon-like thunder, and gazed at the traffic jam on the street, and the river of rainwater beneath the traffic jam. Fun times. And really tasty grilled fish. The general plan in conclusion, after the three hour drive back to the south coast, was to revisit the place this coming summer -- at which time I will be able to write more as I see more.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Lying around. Lethargic. Aimless. I'm lying on the bed this morning just thinking how meaningless things seem sometimes. Thinking I ought to re-read Ecclesiates, just for the comfort of knowing the feeling is nothing new. If Solomon felt the same, I must be in good company at least. 

I'm thinking back over my life, of all the mistakes I've made, of all the stupid things I've done, of all the little roads and branches that led nowhere. I'm thinking that there has been no cohesion in any of it, no plot, no theme. In every circumstance I find myself marooned -- trying to arrive, trying to return, trying to finish and trying to start, waiting to live where I find myself this moment, as always in every phase and every time -- for all the pieces to fit, all the lines to connect, for the mold to finally set and become its own intention.

What would this look like, I wonder? Peace? Security? Rest?

I look back on so many good intentions that just turned out wrong somehow. What can they mean now if stillborn, undone, unsuccessful? How could I have been so wrong about things I felt were so right? Or what contrary fate has dogged my most ardent efforts? Or did I simply, in every time and in every effort, fail to try hard enough?

That last, yes. I suppose the fault is to be found in that last.